I love film. Sitting in a cinema watching a silent film with live music is my favourite thing to do. It always feels like I am travelling back in time. The next best film experience is watching a black and white film from the 1930s or the 1940s.
You can’t beat a screwball comedy with dialogue so fast and furious and funny that it makes your ribs ache with laughter.
Yesterday I watched a film that was released in 1936. It was called ‘Mr Deeds Goes to Town’. I picked up the DVD for £1 from a charity shop. The main character, Longfellow Deeds, was played by a movie star called Gary Cooper. He is mainly remembered for starring in cowboy films such a High Noon.
The film is set during the depression in New York where there were a lot people out of work and hungry at the same time as a lot of incredibly wealthy people living the high life in the city. Longfellow lives in Mandrake Falls where he writes poetry for greetings cards and play the tuba. He inherits £20 million dollars and heads to New York to collect it. He is besieged by lawyers and bankers and the so-called elite who, assuming he is stupid, want to help themselves to his money.
He falls in love with a wisecracking journalist played by Jean Arthur. She is in disguise as a poor starving typist. At first she finds Longfellow ridiculous and nicknames him ‘The Cinderella Man’ and writes stories about him for her newspaper. She did not expect to fall in love.
Longfellow decides that the best thing he can do is give away his millions to the unemployed and starving. He will give people land to farm. This decision does not go down with the lawyers and the bankers and the freeloaders who cook up a plan to have Longfellow declared insane.
Watching this film for the first time made me laugh, it made me gasp at the gorgeousness of Gary Cooper and the storyline seemed fresh and sadly relevant to life in my beloved city, London.
The pictures of Gary Cooper are from my own book collection.